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POEMS BY JOHN KEATS
“What more felicity can fall to creature,
Fate of the Butterfly. — SPENSER.
·EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
BOSTON, U.S.A., AND LONDON
In the making up of this volume certain liberties have been taken which may seem to call for a word of explanation. The common arrangement of the poems has been discarded, and spelling and punctuation have been to some extent modified. Hitherto the poems have usually been printed according to the contents of the three volumes published in Keats's lifetime, the posthumous work following in the order which has seemed good in the eyes of particular editors. The only conceivable objections to a departure from this plan are that it had in parts the sanction of the author and that it is impossible to know how Keats would have arranged the poems had he lived to edit a complete edition. On the other hand it is evident that he could not have retained an order so ineffective and so little calculated to give to the general reader a just impression. There is much in the first volume—especially the Epistles — which is of little value save to the special student of the development of Keats's genius, and equally there is among the posthumous work a good deal which the poet would probably never have printed. It does not seem to me that one shows intelligent admiration for a poet by dragging forward all the experiments in verse by which the bard learned his technique ; and I have ventured to omit certain verse which I feel entire confidence Keats himself would have dropped had he lived to reprint. This at once made necessary the rearrangement which in any case I should have made in order that the emphasis of place in the volume should fall upon the worthiest work. Under the old plan of putting first the contents of the 1817 volume, the reader's first impression came entirely from the earliest and crudest work. This was manifestly unfair alike to reader and to poet ; and I venture to believe that the order in the present volume is one which more nearly does justice to the poems than that before adopted.
The question of spelling and punctuation has been a most teasing one. Keats was by no means accurate in his orthography, and he did not live to outgrow a certain boyish extravagance in his feeling for the picturesque effect of antique spellings. The associations called up in his mind by the sight of words spelled as they had been by Elizabethan poets were so delightful that he forgot that to the average reader such orthographies would seem not picturesque but simply illiterate. He introduced confusion, moreover, by a constant want of uniformity. 'Lilly' on one page is 'lily' on the next, and so on for a long list of words which the curious may find in Forman’s exhaustive edition. Editors * have struggled with Keats's confused and confusing orthography with various results. It seemed the simplest and wisest course in an edition meant for the student and the general reader to adopt as far as possible the ordinary modern spelling throughout. I recognize the fact that this involves a loss, for I appreciate fully the value of an appea! to the eye by the form of a word. On the whole, however,